A film that opens with a Santa Claus and a white man giving chase to a black man deserves to be given credit. That aside, French Connection is a monumental achievement, regarding the realistic characters and the realism in the nature of the surroundings. It's a starkly tough film, harsh, and brutal. Most of the early 70's films emphasized on the realism, and this film is no different. All the crashes, the punches, the against-the-walls, the shouts, the inhaling of the cigarette, the pointing of a finger; all felt natural, all too real, almost a semi-documentary in itself.
The story is this that a French criminal is smuggling narcotics from France to the USA, and two cops, Popeye and Cloudy, must stop him from doing so, or catch him red-handed. The plot is nothing original, but the way the film snakes around it is energetic, angry, powerful, and top of all, impressive right down to boot. True, the film does take time to come to its pace, but it's only natural. Given how modern dramatic-action films tend to go off like an atom bomb right from the first minute, and how every cast - even the villains - are incredibly handsome looking, The French Connection plays out like a slow-defusing dynamite, and has characters that very well could be the cinematic equivalent of Marcus Fenix and his company; damn ugly, but damn professional - no shadow of a smile, no sly smirk to the camera. Check out Bill Hickman: aquiline professionalism that cannot be matched, especially by modern standards, no matter how hard they try. He also co-ordinated the legendary car chase. Check out his other works - Bullitt and The Seven-Ups.
From the performances, Gene Hackman was the top dog. What impressed me the most was his hand gestures. Strong, dominant, full of power. This one performance is strong proof of a dominating, angry screen presence. Roy Schneider, on the side as Cloudy, was akin to a medicine tablet to a sugar patient. Slow, subtle, but effective. Fernando Rey was equally amazing as Alain Charnier, as was Bill Hickman, who plays Bill Mulderig. But Hackman and Schneider had such a strong grip on their characters and on the film as a whole that no other actor, no matter how skilled, could come to their level.
In conclusion, The French Connection is solid brick of a film, as hard-hitting as a boxing glove filled with pebbles, as mighty as Duke's Mighty Boot!